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February 9 & 12: from Cairo - Kazakhstan - Turkey - India - New York

From our correspondents around the world....

CBC Correspondent Derek Stoffel talks with a group of Syrian refugees living at a camp at the Turkey/Syria border. (Photo: CBC)

Egyptians may be divided over military rule but the army's not going anywhere soon. We'll hear why its influence is too deep to deny. 

In Kazahkstan, nobody grows very old in the villages near a former nuclear test site now being considered for commercial farming. 

CBC News enters the Syrian refugee camps in Turkey, where exiles exist on a diet of defiance and division.

In India, cheap handmade cigarettes may have health risks but they're going global anyway.  

And, the life of Brian: how a guy from Brooklyn found his muse in the music of Africa.

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A protester draped in an Egyptian flag climbs atop an army tank to shake hands with a soldier in Cairo January 29, 2011. A year after the revolution, some Egyptians remain skeptical that the military will give up its wide-ranging control of the economy. (Photo: REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis)

From pastry to pasta: the Egyptian military's mighty grip 

In Egypt, there are constant calls for the ruling military council to go.

But even if the generals make good their promise to hand over power after presidential elections this year, the army will still be a force to be reckoned with.

We've talked before on this program about the depth of its influence on Egyptian society.  Now we can take you inside it. Just climb in the car with CBC correspondent Margaret Evans. 

Margaret's dispatch

People in Kazakhstan measure radiation levels in a crater, created by an underground nuclear test explosion decades ago. Villagers in the area of the explosions continue to live there, and even fish from the lakes created in these craters. (Photo: Magda Stawkowski)

Six months in the life of a former nuclear test site

Magda Stawkowski was making her way towards a crater in the one of the most beautiful landscapes she'd ever seen, when the Geiger counter started going crazy.  

No surprise perhaps, in the Polygon region of Kazakhstan.  A place where the Soviets set off more than 400 nuclear explosions over a 40-year period.

But as a medical anthropologist, she was surprised by some of the stories she gathered from civilians who choose to live with whatever health risks may come from the radioactive former test site nearby. 

Magda Stawkowski is a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado.  She lived with it too for six long months, and she spoke to Rick from Boulder.

Rick's interview with Magda

Art teacher Abdul Karim Haj Youseff shows a portrait he's painted on the wall of a tent in the Syrian refugee camp where he's living. (Photo: CBC)

Defiance and division at a Syrian refugee camp 

Syria's escalating violence is driving many out of the country to sanctuary in neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. 

With Turkey thought to be the most influential of the three, some view it as a possible intervenor, though analysts say its efforts to date haven't had much impact on Syria's leadership.

So while most of its exiles remain defiant, they're also divided over what to do next.  CBC Correspondent Derek Stoffel taps into that apprehension after gaining rare access to their refugee camps in Turkey. 

Derek's documentary

An Indian worker makes a bidi, shredded tobacco hand-rolled in dark brown leaves from the tend tree, in Ghaighata 85 km north of the eastern Indian city of Calcutta, in July 2004. (Photo: REUTERS/Sucheta Das)

Bidi's deadly hold on India

In India, you see them everwhere. Bidis, the cigarettes of the poor, made by the poor. And made cheap. 

But there are expensive consequences.

Tobacco-related illness claims nearly a million lives every year in India but the business enjoys some sweet tax breaks. It's a billion-dollar industry but it only pays its employees -- mostly women -- just a dollar a day. 

Now the bidi boys are expanding into western markets, and leaning on their lobbyists to keep its interests free of further regulation. 

Journalist Murali Krishnan has been writing about the industry for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. He spoke to Rick from Delhi. 

Murali Krishnan is National Affairs Editor with the Indo-Asian News Service specialising in security issues and corruption. 

And in a footnote on Praful Patel, the Bidi boss of Maharashtra mentioned in that story. The RCMP recently laid the first charges ever filed under Canada's foreign bribery law.  

And the accused allegedly spoke of funneling money to cabinet minister Patel in return for government contracts, though the case has not been proven, and he faces no charges himself. 

Cover artwork from a cassette of Ghanaian artist Ata Kak. Brian Shimkovitz first found his music in 2007 and has been trying to track him down ever since.

Awesome tapes from Africa,  
via Brooklyn 

Brian Shimkovitz was a university student when he first heard the music of the late Fela Kuti, Nigeria's Afrobeat pioneer.

You could say it changed his life. Since then, he's been on a mission to seek out new music from Africa.  No matter how raw or obscure. 

And now he's got crates of it. Much of it on cassette, no less, and he tells his story to Dispatches contributor Maria Scarvalone.

Maria's visit with Brian

By the way, Brian is now moving to Germany, where he'll DJ, and keep searching for hidden gems of African music for his blog, Awesome Tapes from Africa

Your Dispatches: moved to write

Some of our listeners were moved to write about our story last week on the no-name dead of Colombia.

They're mostly victims of the country's drug and political violence who've been dumped into the Magdelena River.  But some are  recovered downstream, where they're adopted and cherished by those who find them.  

After hearing it, Diane Hurdle of Aurora, Ontario wrote: 

At first listen, I found this story to be somewhat macabre.  I remained incredulous.  However, as I listened further, it made a lot of sense that these individuals invested so much into reclaiming lost souls, and I saw it for what it is. An act of Humanity.

And from Cheryl Sutherland in Ottawa:

The remarkable kindness and respect shown by villagers who bury and name the corpses that float by in the river was poignant, even transcendent. For these villagers to offer decent burials, and to care so devoutly for the graves of the unknown victims of violence, is incredibly humane and kind...In praying for the dead, and also praying to them as intercessors, the villagers transform the horror of the deaths -- and casual disposal of their bodies -- into a caring, deeply spiritual response, and recognition of the worth of human beings. I am deeply touched.
Email us with your thoughts on this story. Or check out more listener letters at Your Dispatches
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